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Community leaders join movement to fight hunger in North Tonawanda

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Thu, Oct 31st 2019 07:00 am
From left, Austin Tylec, Jennifer Grier (Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union), Ed Smolinski, Bob Brennan, Chad Rieselman (Lumber City Church) and Maggie Wilmore (Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union)
From left, Austin Tylec, Jennifer Grier (Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union), Ed Smolinski, Bob Brennan, Chad Rieselman (Lumber City Church) and Maggie Wilmore (Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union)

The Little Free Pantry is a nationwide movement that addresses immediate and local hunger issues, an epidemic prevalent in the City of North Tonawanda. The concept entails small, independent, handmade food pantries placed in popular areas where people can take what they need and give what they can.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has categorized several areas of North Tonawanda as “food deserts,” or areas that lack access to food. A significant number of low-income residents and families, even those who live within half a mile of a supermarket, find themselves in this category.

These Little Free Pantries are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are discreet, encouraging those who are in need to take advantage of the pantries without the stigma that surrounds being in need. The pantries need not be staffed by volunteers, as they’re self-sustaining through organic involvement and contributions from volunteers and members of the community.

Community activists Bob Brennan, Ed Smolinski and Austin Tylec have teamed up with the Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union to contribute to the cause by building an additional Little Free Pantry, bringing the total number in North Tonawanda to seven.

The first two locations of these Little Free Pantries were the Lumber City Church and the Nash Road Church, but pantries can now be found throughout North Tonawanda. The most recent pantry, built by Brennan, Smolinski and Tylec has found its home at the Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union on the corner of Ward Road and Oliver Street.

“Bringing these Little Free Pantries to North Tonawanda has been a tremendous community effort,” Brennan said.

Tylec added, “It gives us a hands-on opportunity to be a part of this movement and to make a positive impact for those in need, especially for the upcoming holidays.”

“Any chance to put your skills to use for the betterment of your community is a chance you can’t afford to miss,” Smolinski noted. “Constructing a little free pantry has been one of my more favorite community projects I’ve worked on.”

The Little Free Pantry building materials were provided by The Hope Center and has been filled with nonperishable goods provided by The Greater Niagara Federal Credit Union.

All parties involved in this effort encourage the community to be a part of the movement by ensuring the pantry stays stocked for the ensuing future.

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